Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Monday, July 03, 2006
 
Superman Returns

I went in with my expectations on the floor. First of all, the original Christopher Reeve Superman movies were my favorite childhood movies. That's just asking for disappointment. Secondly, it feels a little weird to be ancticipating a Warner Brother's film when I now work for yet another TimeWarner company.* Finally, the buzz was all bad. Bad reviews, changed directors, apparent cowering in anticipation of pirates, none of it boded well. Then Scotto emailed a bunch of us with this quote:
I saw the critic screening last night, and I have to say that the movie is a tapestry of missed opportunities. I was prepared to hate it, but the first half had such amazing moments that I ended up enjoying myself...until the second half, where it veered into the abyss and kicked my soul in the groin.
Wow, that's an intense mixed metaphor. So intense that when I shared it with editor Nancy Einhart, she said that while she had had no plans to see the movie, she was now kind of curious just to see what the hell that guy was talking about. In email discussion it has been permuted from "kicked my soul in the groin" to "kick my soul's groin" to "a soul-kick to the groin," with a slight detour to "kicked my groin in the soul."

A bunch of us decided we still wanted to see this move, and pledged to shield each other. Our expectations were further lowered by the horrible, horrible medley commercials, commercials for previews, and trailers that preceeded the movie at Jack London Square. And then, finally, the Warner Brothers logo (I woohoo'd 'Time Warner!' probably utterly confounding the people around us) and then---the music. The John Williams Music. I really need to find my copy of that soundtrack, because damn if it doesn't still get me after 20 odd years. I took a deep breath, and remembered to keep my defenses up. And I kept them up for almost three hours.

And it turned out no shielding was necessary. Our groins, atmic** or otherwise, were safe and unharmed. It was a pretty good movie. If I wasn't so busy and cheap, I'd even consider going to see it again with 3D bits at the Metreon. I liked it. I'll almost certainly watch it again on DVD.

In fact--besides being just fine, which was a major accomplishment, given everything it was fighting, it was actually sort of objectively interesting and good. I think the filmmakers decided that it was simply too much to try and replacethe legend of Christopher Reeve, especially so soon after his tragic death. And so Brandon Routh's characterization is greatly in homage to him. And that's okay this time, because he did it well, and it needed to be done once. Scott told me that the rumors were he looked just like Reeve, and I was highly skeptical, especially after the opening scenes. But when Clark Kent first appeared on the screen I actually said, "ah!" out loud. And that helped me forget that I was watching a new person, and just watch the movie, and get lost in it. The differences emergde, and I think they show great promise, but now was not the time to expand on them. I'm not totally sold, but I think Routh may very well make the role his own, in a good way.

The movie is basically set up as a 5-year later sequel to Superman II, but with everything shifted into current times. Superman has been away for a few years. The big deal is that when he gets back he (actually, Clark) finds that Lois Lane has a live-in boyfriend and a son. When I read this in reviews I figured it would make for annoying soap opera, but it actually gave shape and substance to all three or four characters (depending on how you count), and made for a surprisingly sympathetic, admirable Lois Lane. It also includes a Lex Luthor who got out of jail legally, and has an army of henchmen including the celebrated Kal Penn. The weird thing is that this time around Kevin Spacey's Lex is actually almost nice to his henchmen, and there is nothing dorky about them. They are intelligent, efficent, engaged, very creepy villains--sympathetic almost, and not because they're being bullied by Lex. This makes him more sympathetic as well, and makes the climax of evil much more gruelling.

It's visually stunning, as is to be expected from the director of X2 and The Usual Suspects. There were relatively few campy moments, though there was lots of iconic homage to the comics and the older movies, and lots of quiet little har-har we-love-this-old-joke moments. The action was also very much in homage, carefully updated but with a couple of major exceptions (and a lot of good use of water) not very surprising. The plot was kind of ripped off from a a classic science fiction novel by one of the great masters (I won't give it away, but maybe you should wear some sunblock) and the costuming and design was not terribly daring--Luthor et al got the best stuff there. But over all, I was happy, and I'm looking forward to the next one, which is always a good sign.

*Though TimeInc (Business 2.0) and DC Comics have absolutely nothing to do with each other as far as I can tell, which is too damn bad, because now that I work for a huge corporation, it would have been nice to feel like my colleagues include my first favorite reporter.
** In discussing this kick to the groin of one's soul, I realized we didn't have a good adjective for "having to do with the soul." It should be psychic, because Psyche really means soul, but it's come to mean mind. So I coined atmic, from Atma, the Sanskrit word for soul. Please share!
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
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Dave Barry
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Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
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ChennaiCentral
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Dark Days Ahead
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Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
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Ennis
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Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
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Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
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Yglesias:Tpmcafe

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Daily Dose of Imagery
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Alexandra Huddleston
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TiffinBox

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Apartment Therapy
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Ranajit Dam
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InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

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